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The Observer Dec. 23 

’Tis the season, and The Observer is darn glad to have outgrown the determination that plagued our 20s and 30s and 40s to get Christmas right. By one’s 50s, life is going faster than the speed of light, so that by the time one thinks of Christmas, it’s gone. On an evening walk last week, The Observer inspected the neighbors’ Christmas trees shining from their parlor windows. At one house, though, the tree sparkled from the front porch, not dropping its needles on the floor of the living room and not posing a fire hazard. When we were growing up, when Christmas passed slowly, our favorite Christmas tree was also an outdoor tree. It was at our best friend’s house. Her parents cut it from land out west, dragged it back to town and positioned it in front of a picture window that looked out on the ravine their home backed up to. So the tree looked like it had just volunteered, come up from the woods and said here I am. They hung the tree with enormous glass balls, some as big as honeydews, some even bigger. When the wind blew, the branches swayed and so did the heirloom balls. There were casualties. But they were beautiful. The balls were loved completely, even unto death. The Observer waited until Dec. 18 to buy a Christmas tree. At stop No. 3, a nursery out west, two trees were left. The nursery wanted $25 for the Charlie Brown-quality fir and we took it. We expressed our shock to the saleslady that we’d had such a hard time finding a tree when Christmas was still a week away. She shocked us further. Earlier that day, a customer came in, rejected our shrub, and bought a $200 live cedar with a root ball the size of a septic tank. Then he asked for the tree to be cut from the roots. “Can’t get any fresher than that,” he said, and off he sailed with his Christmas tree. The season, we were saying. The Observer took a call recently from an unfamiliar female asking for Mr. Observer. We smelled telemarketer, so we politely declined to bring him to the phone. The female then identified herself as an employee in the fraud division of The Observer’s credit card company. We’ll admit to a quickened pulse when she informed us someone had tried to use our card number — unsuccessfully — to make an online purchase. For what was the would-be thief risking criminal prosecution, we wondered. A computer? Home theater system? Tickets to Tahiti? But no. The rogue made a beeline for … MyBasketBiz.com. Purveyor of kosher chocolate sympathy baskets, dried-fruit platters and cat lovers’ pet gift baskets. Did he try to add a teddy bear for an additional $10? We don’t know, but it could not have been less cool — which somehow makes it a lot more annoying. And then there’s the reason. The Observer was at a local Italian restaurant when we noticed a nice-looking family (we assume), Dad and Mom and two little girls having dinner together. It was a rather quiet one at that, given that the girls were, we guessed, ages 6 and 7. It was obvious Mom wore the pants in the family; she did all the talking, ordering, etc. The elder of this well-behaved pair of little girls was diligently putting pen to paper. Ah, those restaurant tricks to keep children occupied! She left her work on the table, so we decided to inspect it. It was not a drawing, or a Christmas list, or a prepubescent love poem. “God is pleased when I obey Mom” was written 30 times in loopy, girlish cursive on college ruled-spiral notebook paper. For some reason, that particular calming tactic had never occurred to The Observer. Our eyes in the field report that regulars at a West Little Rock restaurant are seeing “a local guy who is the spitting image of Santa Claus.” He’s got a ring of white hair around a bald spot and a full fluffy white beard that falls to the third button on his shirt. This time of year he wears a red sweater or shirt. The Observer’s source was in the restaurant last week when Claus and the missus came in (they’re regulars, too). “As you might expect little kids wanted to touch, shake hands, hug, whatever as he and Mrs. C went by. ... But what was really funny and a little unexpected was the adults. Heads would snap up, and they’d sit a bit straighter, get their elbows off the table, push away their beer ... Then they’d catch themselves and grin. (I keep saying ‘they’ — I did it too.) Best behavior reflex, I guess.”
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